Ambassador Jeramy D.
Having used the Fenix HL55 exclusively for every big nighttime event for the past 7 years, I’ve been hesitant to make any major changes. A few months ago, I received an email about the HM65R-T and I knew I had to get my hands on this light. Seeing the options to switch between flood and spot (or run both at the same time) with a 9+ hour runtime on a bright enough setting to keep what I need visible, I finally took the leap!
When I received the light, I couldn’t help but notice how lightweight it was. It comes with a nice wide headband that uses a dial and fit system to find the perfect tightness that you need depending on what you might have on your head (buff, hat, etc.). One thing to note, they have made the headband longer with the revised iteration and it fits my gigantic noggin with plenty of room to spare. I took it out in my backyard to see just how great both beams were that first night. Wow, I knew that this was going to be a great light to have with me on the trail.
A few weeks after receiving it, in early June, I decided to run from one end of the Smoky Mountains National Park to the other on the Appalachian Trail. Referred to as SCAR (Smokies Challenge Adventure Run), it encompasses 71 miles of rock riddled trail with around 17,000 feet of elevation gain and the same amount of loss. To get from one end of the park to the other, for a normal guy like me going solo, I would be looking at a full night in the mountains. To add to the challenge, there is 1 location to bail (Newfound Gap) and since I was going SOBO, this meant I would be at Newfound well before it got dark. I couldn’t think of a better way to put this light to the test.
Despite dense fog, rain and high winds almost all night long, this light was an absolute beast. I had about an hour of “clear” weather during the night and it really impressed me during that time. I rotated between the high flood setting and medium spot setting most of the night. When the trail got more technical, I would use the flood setting to light up everything close to me. The flood setting was great when I had to stop and pull/filter water from the springs as it allowed a nice wall of light to see what I was doing. When I could open up my legs a bit and the trail would clear of potential obstacles, the spot setting was ideal! After a night of bad weather, the weather didn’t let up in the morning hours which meant that under canopy, I needed my light for much longer than I normally would. By the time I put the battery on my external charger, it took more than 3100mah to fully charge it! Total time having the light on was somewhere around 11 hours. The HM65R-T was so comfy that I decided to keep it on my head for the last 2 hours even though I didn’t have a need for it. I literally forgot that it was there.
At one point during the night, I saw a pair of big yellow/green eyes coming at me in the opposite direction on the trail while rounding a corner. About 20 yards away there was a big brown and “orange” tinted cat staring at me. It stopped, stared at me and immediately took a big leap into the brush off trail and took off down the side of the mountain. I hadn’t ever seen a cat like that and wondered what type of exotic cat was roaming SMNP that night? Come to find out it was a juvenile mountain lion that I had come face to face with. I had always associated mountain lions in the US as being beige colored and wasn’t familiar with the colorations of their young. Well, I know now! Without great lighting, we likely would have had a much closer encounter.
If there is one downside to this light, it’s that the tint of the light was a bit cool for all the fog I encountered. It was a tough night on the trail and I’m not sure if a warmer tinted light would have made much of a difference though. Maybe something to keep in mind if you know you will be faced with a night of fog ahead of you.
I’m excited to have a new go-to light for future big adventures as the HM65R-T offers a lot of different output options to meet your changing needs. I can’t recommend this light enough!